Proposed Changes to California Prop 47
California Proposition 47, known as The Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative, is an approved measure from the California ballot in November of 2014. If you would like to know if you qualify for Prop 47 relief, call the criminal lawyers at The Rodriguez Law Group for a free consultation. The initiative reduced classifications of most non-serious and nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. As a result, misdemeanor sentencing has been applied instead of felony sentencing to various crimes including:
- Shoplifting where the property value is less than $950
- Grand theft where the property value is less than $950
- Receipt of stolen property where value is less than $950
- Forgery, fraud, writing a bad check where the item drawn is less than $950 in value
- Personal use of illegal drugs (in most cases)
The result of Prop 47 was a decrease in inmate populations across California. Los Angeles, having the largest jail system in the country, saw its prison population decrease from 18,601 in November of 2014 to 17,285 in January of 2015. The President of the California Public Defender’s Association said that Proposition 47 “reduced the punishment for many crimes from an excessive punishment to a punishment that is more in line with what the crime is…more commonly a punishment that is going to result in rehabilitation.”
The Changes Proposed
During the 2015 California Legislature’s legislative session numerous politicians introduced bills to amend Prop 47. If signed into law, the changes will appear on the 2016 ballot for vote. The proposed changes include:
- Senate Bill 333 and Assembly Bill 46: Would allow felony charges to be filed against defendants accused of possessing date-rape drugs.
- Assembly Bill 390: California law currently requires individuals convicted of felonies to provide DNA samples (such as urine) and Prop 47 reduced several of these felonies to misdemeanors. Bill 390 would require persons convicted of specific misdemeanors to adhere to DNA testing.
- Assembly Bill 150: Prop 47 made stealing property less than $950 a misdemeanor, which by definition would include a gun worth less than $950. The proposed change would amend the stealing of a firearm to felony offense.
- Assembly Bill 1104: The proposed change would allow warrants to be issued for misdemeanor crimes that were classified as felonies prior to Prop 47’s passage.
Most of the proposed bills are not going to substantively change Prop 47’s goal, which is a criminal justice system that focuses on putting behind bars only serious offenders, such as those convicted of violent crimes The retroactive nature of Prop 47 allowed many who were incarcerated to obtain reduced sentences.
Governor Jerry Brown has revised spending proposals that call for reducing the number of inmates housed outside California. The prison spending cuts are attributable to the reductions in the overall state prison population since the passage of Prop 47. His goal is to reduce related state spending by $73 million.
It will be interesting to see how the proposed changes will unfold. If passed and put to vote in 2016, how will the changes impact the prison population and state spending on the housing inmates? Will the ultimate goal of Proposition 47 still be achieved if some or all the proposed changes become law?
To stay current on proposed legislation, visit the California Legislature website at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml